"Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith."--Christopher Fry
Thursday, May 1, 2014
The HoseMaster's Comprehensive Guide to Wine 5
CHAPTER 7: HOW TO CHOOSE A RED WINE
It’s gotten a lot harder when it comes to choosing red wine. It used to be there were only a few kinds of red wine. There was Cabernet and Merlot and Italian wine, a couple of French red wines from hard to spell places, and that was it. Those were the good old days for Americans. Now there’s all kinds of stupid red wines from places you wish would just go away, like Germany. Why do we need German red wines? Nobody wants German red wines. If you see an article about German red wines, you can be pretty sure you’re reading the wrong publications, and you should cancel your subscription. German red wines. What next? British sparkling wines? First you make shitty cars, then you make shitty bubbly. Are you trying to make France look good? Next thing you know we’ll be drinking wines from Uruguay. What the hell! Because jackasses think they can make wine wherever they live, we have to import it and serve it in creepy wine bars that specialize in unusual wines and an air of superiority? Know why they serve these screwy wines from all over the world, Freisa for fuck’s sake, who the hell wants that, or Abouriou, which sounds like some kind of dung beetle, at those trendy wine bars? Because you know when a $12 glass of Cabernet sucks, but what the hell do you know about Tannat? Drink it and shut up.
Let’s take a quick look at the major red grapes that you need to know something about so you don’t look like a total wine ignorant ignoramus.
Cabernet Sauvignon: OK, so here’s the thing. You’ll start off loving Cabernet Sauvignon, drinking a lot of it, collecting it, boring the crap out of everyone talking about the difference between Cabernet from Howell Mountain and Cabernet from Mt. Veeder, which is that one has a buttload of tannin and the other one has a shitload, and then one day you’ll grow tired of it. Cabernet Sauvignon is the FaceBook of grapes—you look at it all the time, but, frankly, you’re sick of it and wish you’d never wasted your time. Plus, when you’re talking about Cabernet, all you’re really talking about is money. Money and Cabernet go together like poverty and beer. When you think about Napa Valley Cabernet, and Bordeaux, and the Cabernets from Bolgheri, the first thing you think of isn’t elegance and refinement and longevity, the first thing you think of is money. Got change for a Mouton? So do yourself a favor and start out sick of Cabernet. But if you have to order it, order the ones with castles.
Pinot Noir: Of all the red wines, Pinot Noir is the prettiest. It’s basically red wine in drag. You take home a bottle, finally get it where you want it, and, bang, you realize it’s sportin’ a little Beaune in its barnyard. It’s just full of surprises. Winemakers often say that Pinot Noir is the grape that most vividly reflects its terroir. No one knows what this means. It sort of means that it tastes like where it comes from, which is good, I guess, unless you’re talking bodily fluids. The best Pinot Noirs have an ethereal grandeur to them, like RuPaul. Pinot Noir is most famously the grape of Burgundy, where the best vineyards are called Grand Cru, followed by vineyards nearly as great called Premier Cru, and all the rest of the crap is grown all over the place and is thus referred to as Motley Cru. When speaking knowledgeably about Pinot Noir, it is best to dismiss Oregon Pinot Noir while talking up Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Remember, people in Oregon hate you, while Kiwis are unfailingly nice.
Syrah: Syrah is also known by its rap name, Shiraz. DNA profiling has shown Syrah to be the offspring of Mondeuse Blanche and Mondeuse Stanley, which is why it’s a grape that has always depended upon the kindness of strangers. Which isn’t really working out. Syrah is the grape of the great Northern Rhône appellations, so they’re stuck with it. For many years, wine pundits (yes, there are wine pundits, though they are often referred to in the trade as “buffoons”) predicted that Syrah would be the next Merlot. For once, they were right. No one buys either one any more. Except when they buy cheap Pinot Noir. As for me, I’ve always said that Syrah would be my desert island grape—basically, like Australia.
Zinfandel: Just don’t ever make a stupid pun with the word “Zin.” They’ve all been done by Randall Grahm, doon what comes naturally. So resist the urge, you’ll just sound like an idiot. A few years ago, Carole Meredith of UC Davis tracked down the origin of Zinfandel to Croatia, where it’s called Tribidrag. Carole is the Tribidrag Queen. Women hate Zinfandel, making it the Three Stooges of grapes, which is Fine by Larry. I have no idea why women hate Zinfandel, but it’s true. Oh, some pretend to like it, but they really don’t, like oral sex. So Zin is like oral sex with the Three Stooges. I think that sums it up. Drinking Zin is like a Nyuk-el sandwich to the mouth. See, puns make you sound like an idiot.
Oh, let’s just talk about a few more red grapes that don’t matter as much:
Grenache: Pape music to my ears. Also, Cannonau fodder for cheap red wine. Negroamaro: The Audacity of Hope for Southern Italy Mourvédre: A happy grape, needs a lot of sun. Bet your bottom dollar, the sun’ll come out Mataro. Freisa: A little brain damaged after Ali was through with him. Malbec: Cot Wine? Monica: Oh, Baby, Monica goes down easy. Trousseau: Fucking Bastardo Pinotage: The epitome of Boering.
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity."
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."